Friday, August 3, 2012

Reimagining Asia Pacific Rim


Oceania, as we know from Epeli Hau’ofa is not just a sea of islands, it is also home to millions of Indigenous peoples with different cultures, histories, and experiences that define them as a unique group of people occupying an imagined geography known as Oceania. 

Movement in and around or outbound are constant and necessary experiences in the lives of Pacific Islanders. Using interconnected networking Islanders are able to move between their homelands and metropolitan centers such as New Zealand, Australia, and USA to participate in global social, political, and economic activities. These movements form new alliances, strengthen existing relationships, and promote peace, goodwill, security, and protection against destabilizing forces. These are best described as imagined geographies and cross-cultural fertilization in Oceania.

Rob Wilson, author of Reimagining the American Pacific (2000) offers a striking perspective that reaffirms the observations we have about the socio-economic and political activities within the Asia Pacific Rim: “The cultural politics of the local are brought to bear against the global in sites in the Asia-Pacific region, arousing what Stuart Hall has called the weight of “a lot of little local politics.”” The local realities are brought into direct contest against the global influences of the postmodern. 

The trend that Rob Wilson lays out on the table is less alarming, especially in relation to “Great Britain’s postimperial decline as global industrial power, given these postwar decades spreading “postmodern global culture” from the USA.”

Citing Stuart, Wilson points out “that erosion of the nation-state, national economies, and national cultural identities represents a dangerous moment: the gobbling up of the local by the national can lead to dismantling those remnants of the local and critical resistance via a process of offshore transnationalization.” Whereby “the core of national identity can be reshaped and crealized in contexts of ethnic difference, both locally and globally, from Birmingham to the ex-British colony of Hong Kong (where new cultural identity rallying around a poetics of the local has begun, against the apocalyptic odds of 1997, to assert itself).” 

A new localism developes from a space that disrupts the local where the local is something that insists on maintaining the purity of the local and status quo as in the case of languages that refuse being corrupted. In Pacific spaces such as those in Hawaii, Samoa, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, or Tonga, the post-imperial English is one that is a blend of the local language and the introduced English from a historical past. The English spoken mutates within local registers and refuses to maintain its original form. We could say the English used in the Pacific Islands is a hybrid language within a hybrid space that is to say English is localized within a space of colonial history and one that is postcolonial. 

Rob Wilson argues that: “The identity of “Englishness”—which in its spread through a global empire made “English English” into the world language of commerce, culture, and law—was formed in the prior epoch of international finance when the world market was dominated by nation-states and upper-class culture at the imperial core. This notion of national identity is being undone in a “postimperial” outreach, when London is just one of the global cities consolidating the transnational flows of culture, migrancy, and finance in “regimes of representation” emanating from the metropolitan center.” (Wilson 2000: 261). 

Wilson and Hall declare that “this new kind of globalization is not English, but American” in its mass spread, linguistic impurity, and pop culture—driven cultural hegemony; this time around the empire, the core culture of American globalization is called “the global postmodern” and comes booming out of Holywood, Duke University Press, Routledge, MTV, and Wall Street offices (and garages) dressed in “global mass culture” garb.” 

Indeed, the introduction of mobile phones, text messaging, and Facebook has seen a rise in the use of English that is disruptive to standard, conventional uses that there is an emergence of the resistances to such a development from within the local contexts. 

“If there is an uneven feedback loop circulating mass imagery and mass communication from a high-tech core, this new U.S. hegemony, as Hall notes, takes place and spreads via “a peculiar form of culture and multiplies linkages of capital, and hence embraces the proliferation of contradictions and ethnic/peripheral/marginal difference,” says Wilson.

In essence the Asia Pacific becomes a site of hybridization with a hybrid language of self-regulated significance. There is much blending and reshaping of the local with the globalized language and culture. 

 “Throughout the Asia/Pacific region, we can find evidence of a “counterpolitics of the local” surging up and reaffirming locality in contexts of international influx. Places driven by “Asian-Pacific” dynamics, such as Taiwan and Hawai’i, are reshaping themselves into counternational and subnational entities at the same time, ascending into something transnational and indigenous/local,”  Wilson continues to argue. 

Papua New Guinea as a site in which rapid changes in the last ten years has taken place must consider the wrestling of the transnational and indigenous for global capital, with media technologies influencing such changes at the most localized levels in rural communities.  

Wilson adds: “Given dynamics of high-tech-driven globalization…we can now see unpredictable outcomes, managing chaos and strange weather along the Pacific Rim. Australian cultural critics, confronting the global/local interface of culture down under in the Pacific, are finding their own evidence to undermine the commonplace view that the transnationalization of the media empires leads to a strengthening of U.S. hegemony.” 

The LNG project driven by global capital and transnational companies has propelled the accelerated development of business opportunities in PNG.  With it came large groups of people from the Asia Pacific region as global capital influencing and enhancing the development and capital growth of the Papua New Guinea.  In turn the transformation of local sites and physical landscapes absorb the social and economic pressures this postmodern transformation brings.

Our discussion is to highlight the uneasy acceptance of the view that we are already absorbed into the core of the Asia Pacific Rim socio-economic and political realm.

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